Afraid to Hang On Too Long
I was, until a year ago, the mommy to three elderly cats whom I had adopted as kittens. My two boys passed within two months of each other (Simon from strokes, Nigel from acute renal failure), and now Nigel's sister, Chloe, has been diagnosed with inoperable bone cancer. She just had a checkup and so far is pain-free and gaining weight, but my vet doesn't hold out much hope she will still be with me by Christmas.
I'm worried that since my grief increased with each of the boys' euthanasias, I will be less able to judge when it's time to say goodbye to Chloe and perhaps cause her undue suffering. How best would you advise those of us who are so afraid of our own pain, but still want to give our companions a dignified, loving end?
Rhonda, you are such a courageous and insightful observer of your own thoughts and feelings that I am sure that you will euthanize Chloe at the appropriate time. In my experience, you are the exceptional owner who is willing to acknowledge the harm you could do to a beloved pet when your own emotions distort your perception of the pet's predicament.
Here are some suggestions that may help you make a decision:
Start now to keep a daily or weekly log that charts Chloe’s observable quality of life.
-You could estimate the amount of time each day that she was able to enjoy her normal routine.
-You could make a list of behaviors that you think indicate she is comfortable.
-Keep a list of all the ways your cat indicates she may be uncomfortable.
Encourage your vet to be honest with you and to educate you about the exact signs of suffering that occur with bone cancer. Don't fall into the trap of watching for only one behavior, such as loss of appetite. That is too limited.
Since there is never an exactly right time to euthanize, decide if you would rather be several days “too soon” or “too late.”
As soon as you feel you have started a “Death Watch,” set a date for the euthanasia. It can be weeks away, and you can always cancel the appointment, but a date will allow you to focus on the anticipatory grieving. You will feel more accepting when the time comes.
It would be my privilege to speak with you at any time, Rhonda, if you care to call (877) GRIEF-10.